Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 Favorite not so famous singers worth a look

Artist/Image source: Amy Macdonald/
  1. The Felice Brothers
  2. Ryan Bingham
  3. Amy Macdonald
  4. Kirsty MacColl
  5. Dory Previn
  6. Patti Scialfa
  7. James McMurtry
  8. Tomislav Bralic
  9. Andy Fairweather Low
  10. Chuck Brodsky

Digital Chutzpah

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Philosopher Daniel Dennett says the definition of happiness is to find something bigger than you are and dedicate the rest of your life to it. Perhaps that’s why some businesses thrive – because they have people behind them who subscribe to the idea that the role of business is to make the world a better place, and everything else becomes energized by that goal. Business meets needs, solves problems, innovates, improves lives, creates jobs and offers everyday joy.

The premise of Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler’s new book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World is on a similar wavelength – that entrepreneurs can solve global-scale problems.

The book is touted as a guide to ‘exponential digital chutzpah’ in a world where failure for entrepreneurs is more likely to result from thinking too small than too big. It teaches entrepreneurs how to thrive in the face of advancing technology, using a framework called the ‘six D’s of exponentials’:
  • Digitalization – while our ancestors relied on telling stories around the campfire as a form of transmission, now we can share instantly with the push of a button.
  • Disruption – it’s happening in any and every industry, with innovation creating a new market and disrupting an existing one. Kodak even became a victim of its own invention.
  • Deception – a period where exponential growth by new technologies goes unnoticed and is downplayed by existing industries. Then it takes over in a big way.
  • Demonetization – technology is making not just things, but knowledge, free. In a virtual sense, digital cameras made film free by making it digital.
  • Dematerialization – at odds with our society of consumerism. Smartphones aren’t just smart – they’re also a camera, watch, notepad, calculator...and that’s before you start downloading apps. They’ve caused entire product lines to almost disappear.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wonderful Places

Image source: Brian Joseph

If you’re looking to travel the world, there’s no shortage of recommendations of where to go or opinion on what to do and see. The Huffington Post recently published an article that collated the favorites of Pulitzer Prize winners, world champion athletes, entrepreneurs, artists and more. Forbes turned to serious globe trotters and standouts in the travel field for input.

While there’s an obvious bent towards identifying obscure places that people have stumbled upon in the journeys of their lives, I found it comforting that places close to home also feature (two places that I consider ‘home’, Auckland, New Zealand and the Lake District in Cumbria, UK are in my favorites).

Images of these places tend to say it all, but I was particularly taken by the explanations people gave about why they chose a certain location as their favorite, and the thought given for the emotions they so carefully attached. There were some common themes. Magical and overwhelming scenery. Remote destinations and no interruptions. Bare feet and no attitude. The people.

Scientist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond spoke of New Guinea: “Within this island, you get the whole world…you can stand on a coral reef and look up at a glacier…there are hundreds of different tribes with hundreds of different languages, so from a human point of view, it is the most exciting place in the world.”

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg spoke of The Lau Archipelago, Fiji: “Great storytelling, and a never-ending feeling of community and love that lives with you forever.”

Author Lalita Tademy spoke of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy: “Up on the cliffs, perched up above everything, watching the ocean, the boats. It was just stunning. I spent so much time on the balcony, just staring. It was inspiring… Gorgeous.”

Places that make you think and that make you reflect on life. They don’t need to be far flung. They’re out there.

And remember as Snoopy and Charlie Brown know, “in life its not where you go – its who you travel with.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Writing: The Craft

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In our bite-sized content driven culture, there is a tendency to read without considering the craft of a well-written piece of work. We focus on devouring the content, without paying much attention to the words, the rhythm, the fun, the mystery. An article by Joel Achenbach on Princeton Alumni Weekly harks back to this in a delightful tribute to his former professor, John McPhee.

McPhee was known for his passion and dedication to his craft. It was contagious. His sharp wit was also a trait that his students appreciated.

McPhee’s teachings on writing were rich and numerous. I’ll share a few here.
  • On structure: “Readers are not supposed to see structure. It should be as invisible as living bones. It shouldn’t be imposed; structure arises within the story.”
  • On words: He taught his students to revere language, to care about every word, to use a dictionary, to pay attention to rhythm and to refrain from treating synonyms interchangeably.
  • On simplicity: Sometimes writing a simple description can take days (“if you do it right, it will slide by unnoticed. If you blow it, it’s obvious”).
  • On restraint: “Novice writers believe they will improve a piece of writing by adding things to it; mature writers know they will improve it by taking things out.”
That’s all folks.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bringing the Brain Up to Speed

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There are always going to be things competing for our time or attention. Some people like to organize their lives by spending less time on the mundane and more time on the good stuff. The important not the merely urgent. But it seems there’s always room for improvement – who doesn’t want to have more fun?

A recent article in Fortune by Laura Vanderkam offered some tips from neuroscientist Daniel Levitin on how. Levitin explains that part of the problem is that our brains are stuck in the hunting and gathering age due to the slow pace of evolution, so we have to find ways to bring it up to speed.

His suggestions (with some personal perspectives):
  • Give things a place to reduce the amount of mental energy you spend trying to find things again. Keys on the hook, cellphone by the door. Freedom within a framework.
  • Create triggers to help you snap out of auto-pilot. Modern technology helps. Set reminders on your cellphone to chime at certain times or in certain locations – so you remember to buy milk when you’re at the store instead of before or after.
  • Keep track of your networks. Don’t rely on your brain to remember the names of people you meet or the things you talked about – it’s not always up for the job. Our ancestors had smaller social circles. Make a note.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t indulge in this nonsensical multitasking behalf….where 3 things get done averagely (at best) simultaneously.
  • Don’t agonize over things you can’t change.
  • Finally, sleep. It’s one of our biggest weapons for cognitive success. Get enough of it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

10 Favorite Cricketers

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With the World Cup in New Zealand in full swing, here’s a look at my favorite cricketers of all time… KR
  1. Gary Sobers
  2. Allan Border
  3. Richie Benaud
  4. Farokh Engineer
  5. Harry Pilling
  6. Jimmy Anderson
  7. Clive LIoyd
  8. Jackie Bond
  9. Ian Botham
  10. Frank Worrell